2 Kings Chapter Twenty-three
2 Kings 23
Josiah reads the law, and renews the covenant. (1-3) He destroys idolatry. (4-14) The reformation extended to Israel, A passover kept. (15-24) Josiah slain by Pharaoh-nechoh. (25-30) Wicked reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim. (31-37)
Commentary on 2 Kings 23:1-3
(Read 2 Kings 23:1-3)
Josiah had received a message from God, that there was no preventing the ruin of Jerusalem, but that he should only deliver his own soul; yet he does his duty, and leaves the event to God. He engaged the people in the most solemn manner to abolish idolatry, and to serve God in righteousness and true holiness. Though most were formal or hypocritical herein, yet much outward wickedness would be prevented, and they were accountable to God for their own conduct.
Commentary on 2 Kings 23:4-14
(Read 2 Kings 23:4-14)
What abundance of wickedness in Judah and Jerusalem! One would not have believed it possible, that in Judah, where God was known, in Israel, where his name was great, in Salem, in Zion, where his dwelling-place was, such abominations should be found. Josiah had reigned eighteen years, and had himself set the people a good example, and kept up religion according to the Divine law; yet, when he came to search for idolatry, the depth and extent were very great. Both common history, and the records of God's word, teach, that all the real godliness or goodness ever found on earth, is derived from the new-creating Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Commentary on 2 Kings 23:15-24
(Read 2 Kings 23:15-24)
Josiah's zeal extended to the cities of Israel within his reach. He carefully preserved the sepulchre of that man of God, who came from Judah to foretell the throwing down of Jeroboam's altar. When they had cleared the country of the old leaven of idolatry, then they applied themselves to the keeping of the feast. There was not holden such a passover in any of the foregoing reigns. The revival of a long-neglected ordinance, filled them with holy joy; and God recompensed their zeal in destroying idolatry with uncommon tokens of his presence and favour. We have reason to think that during the remainder of Josiah's reign, religion flourished.
Commentary on 2 Kings 23:25-30
(Read 2 Kings 23:25-30)
Upon reading these verses, we must say, Lord, though thy righteousness be as the great mountains, evident, plainly to be seen, and past dispute; yet thy judgments are a great deep, unfathomable, and past finding out. The reforming king is cut off in the midst of his usefulness, in mercy to him, that he might not see the evil coming upon his kingdom: but in wrath to his people, for his death was an inlet to their desolations.
Commentary on 2 Kings 23:31-37
(Read 2 Kings 23:31-37)
After Josiah was laid in his grave, one trouble came on another, till, in twenty-two years, Jerusalem was destroyed. The wicked perished in great numbers, the remnant were purified, and Josiah's reformation had raised up some to join the few who were the precious seed of their future church and nation. A little time, and slender abilities, often suffice to undo the good which pious men have, for a course of years, been labouring to effect. But, blessed be God, the good work which he begins by his regenerating Spirit, cannot be done away, but withstands all changes and temptations.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on 2 Kings》
2 Kings 23
 And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.
Prophets — Either Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah: or, the sons of the prophets. It seems he read it himself. Josiah did not think it beneath him, to be a reader, any more than Solomon did to be a preacher, and David to be even a door keeper in the house of God. All people are concerned to know the scripture, and all in authority, to spread the knowledge of it.
 And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
Stood — They declared their consent to it, and their concurrence with the king in that act, which possibly they did by standing up, as the king himself stood when he took it. It is of good use, with all possible solemnity, to oblige ourselves to our duty. And he that bears an honest heart, does not startle at assurances.
 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
Second order — Either those two who were next in degree to the high-priest, and in case of sickness were to manage his work: or the heads of the twenty four courses which David had appointed.
The grove — The image of the grove: it being most frequent to call images by the names of the persons or things which they represent.
The fields — Adjoining to the brook of Kidron.
To Beth-el — To shew his abhorrence of them, and that he would not give the ashes of them a place in his kingdom: and to pollute and disgrace that place which had been the chief seat and throne of idolatry.
 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
Priests — Heb. the Chemarim; the highest rank of priests, employed in the highest work, which was to burn incense.
 And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
The people — Of that people, those idolatrous people, as it is explained, 2 Chronicles 34:4.
 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
Sodomites — Sodomy was a part of idol-worship, being done to the honour of some of their idols, and by the appointment of those impure and diabolical spirits, which were worshipped in their idols.
Hangings — Or, curtains, either to draw before the idols which were worshipped in the grove, to preserve them from defilement, or to gain more reverence for them: Or, garments for the service of the grove, for the idols or the priests belonging to them. Heb. houses, that is, either little chappels made of woven work, like those which were made of silver, Acts 19:24, within which there were some representations of their grove-idols: or rather, tents made of those curtains for the use above-mentioned.
 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city.
Priests — Belonging to the high-places following, whether such as worshipped idols; or such as worshipped God in those forbidden places.
Defiled — By burning dead mens bones upon them, or by putting them to some other unclean use.
From Geba — The northern border of the kingdom of Judah.
Beer-sheba — The southern border, from one end to the other.
Gates — Which were erected by the gates of the city here mentioned, to the honour of their tutelary gods, whom after the manner of the heathen they owned for the protectors of their city and habitations.
The governor — This circumstance is noted to shew Josiah's great zeal and impartiality, in rooting out all monuments of idolatry, without any respects unto those great persons who were concerned in them.
 Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.
The priest — Who worshipped the true God there.
In Jerusalem — Were not suffered to come thither to the exercise of their priestly function; as a just punishment for the corruption of God's worship, and the transgression of so plain and positive a law of God, Deuteronomy 12:11, which was much worse in them who had more knowledge to discern the will of God, and more obligations to observe it.
Did eat — Of the meal-offerings, allotted to the priests, wherein there was to be no leaven, Leviticus 2:4,5,10,11, and consequently of other provisions belonging to the priests, which are contained under this one kind. Thus their spiritual blemish puts them into the very same state which corporal blemishes brought them, Leviticus 21:17, etc. And thus he mitigates their punishment: he shuts them out from spiritual services, but allows them necessary provisions.
 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
Topheth — Very near Jerusalem, where was the image of Molech, to whom some sacrificed their children, burning them in the fire, others dedicated them, making them pass between two fires. It is supposed to be called Topheth, from toph, a drum; because they beat drums at the burning of the children, that their shrieks might not be heard.
 And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
Horses — Such the eastern nations used to consecrate to the sun, to signify the swiftness of his motion.
The sun — Either, to be sacrificed to the sun: or, to draw those chariots in which the kings, or some other in their stead, went forth every morning to worship the rising sun: for both these were the customs of the Armenians and Persians, as Xenophon testifies.
Entering in — By the gate of the outward court of the temple.
Chamberlain — Or, officer, to whom the care of these horses were committed.
Suburbs — Of the temple: in certain outward buildings belonging to the temple.
Chariots — Which were made for the worship of the sun.
 And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
The top — Upon the roof of the king's house. They were so mad upon their idols, that they were not content with all their publick high places and altars, but made others upon their house-tops, for the worship of the heavenly bodies.
Cast — To shew his detestation of them: and to abolish the very remembrance of them.
 And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
Corruption — The mount of olives, called the mount of corruption, for the gross idolatry there practiced.
Which — Not the same individual altars; which doubtless either Solomon upon his repentance, or some other of Josiah's predecessors had taken away, but other altars built by Manasseh or Amon, which because erected by Solomon's example, and for the same use, and in the same place, are called by his name: this brand is left by the Holy Ghost upon his name and memory, as a just punishment of that abominable practice, and a mean to deter others from the like.
Abomination — The idol, so called, because it was abominable, and made them abominable to God.
 And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.
Men — Of the idolatrous priests, which he caused to be taken out of their graves, verse 18. As he carried the ashes of the images to the graves, to mingle them with dead mens bones, so he carried dead mens bones to the places where the images had been, that both ways idolatry might be rendered loathsome. Dead men and dead gods were indeed much alike, and fittest to go together.
 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
Beth-el — Probably this city was now under the kingdom of Judah, to which it was added by Abijah long since. And it is probable, since the ten tribes were carried away, many cities had put themselves under the protection of Judah. The golden calf, it seems, was gone; but Josiah would leave no remains of that idolatry.
 And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
Himself — Josiah's care and zeal was so great, that he would not trust his officers with these things, but would see them done with his own eyes.
These words — Three hundred years before it was done.
 And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
The priests — By this relation it appears, that after the departure of the king of Assyria, divers of the Israelites who had retired to other parts, and kept themselves out of the conqueror's hands, returned together with their priests to their own land, and to their old trade, worshipping idols; to whom, peradventure, they ascribed this their deliverance from that judgment which Jehovah had brought upon them.
And burnt — According to that famous prophecy, 1 Kings 13:1,2.
 Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;
Such a passover — Celebrated with such solemn care, and great preparation, and numerous sacrifices, and universal joy of all good men; which was much the greater, because of their remembrance of the former wicked and miserable times under Manasseh, and Amon; and the good hopes they now had of the happy establishment of their nation, and the true religion; and of the prevention of God's judgments denounced against them.
Judges — Or, from the days of Samuel, the last of the judges; as it is expressed 2 Chronicles 35:18. None of the kings had taken such care to prepare themselves, the priests, and people, and accurately to observe all the rites, and diligently to purge out all uncleanness, and to renew their covenant with God. And undoubtedly God was pleased to recompense their zeal in destroying idolatry with uncommon tokens of his presence and favour. All this concurred to make it such a passover as had not been, even in the days of Hezekiah.
 Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.
Images, … — Three words noting the same thing, to shew, That all the instruments and monuments of idolatry were destroyed, as God had commanded.
Spied — All that were discovered; not only such as were in the place of worship, but such as their priests or zealots had removed, and endeavoured to hide.
 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.
No king — For his diligent study in God's law, and his exact care, and unwearied industry, and fervent zeal, in rooting out idolators, and all kinds and appearances of idolatry, not only in Judah, but in Israel also; and in the establishment of the true religion in all his dominions, and in the conforming of his own life, and his peoples too, (as far as he could) to the holy law of God: though Hezekiah might excel him in some particulars.
 Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.
Notwithstanding — Because though the king was most hearty in his repentance and acceptable to God, and therefore the judgment was delayed for his time; yet the people were in general corrupt, and secretly averse from Josiah's pious reformation, as appears from the complaints of the prophets, especially Jeremiah and Zephaniah, against them: and by the following history, wherein we see, that as soon as ever Josiah was gone, his children, and the princes, and the people, suddenly and greedily returned to their former abominations.
Because — The sins of Manasseh, and for the men of his generation; who concurred with him in his idolatrous and cruel practices, are justly punished in this generation: because of God's sovereign right of punishing sinners when he sees fit: because of that publick declaration of God, that he would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children: and principally, because these men had never sincerely repented of their own, nor of their fathers sins.
 And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.
I said — Upon the conditions in sundry places expressed, which they broke, and therefore God justly made them to know his breach of promise.
 In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.
The king, … — The king of Babylon, who having formerly rebelled against the Assyrian had now conquered him; as appears by the course of the sacred, and the concurrence of the prophane history; and therefore is here and elsewhere called the Assyrian, and the king of Assyria, because now he was the head of that empire.
Euphrates — Against Carchemish by Euphrates, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 35:20, which the Assyrian had taken from Pharaoh's confederates, who therefore sends forces against the Assyrian, that he might both help them, and secure himself.
Josiah went — Either to defend his own country from Pharaoh's incursions; or to assist the king of Babylon, with whom he seems to have been in league.
Slew — Gave him his death wound there; though he died not 'till he came to Jerusalem.
Seen him — When he fought with him, or in the first onset. It does not appear, that Josiah had any clear call to engage in this war; possibly he received his death wound, as a punishment of his rashness.
 And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead.
Dead — Mortally wounded.
Jehoahaz — Who was younger than Jehoiakim, yet preferred by the people before the elder brother; either because Jehoiakim refused the kingdom for fear of Pharaoh, whom he knew he should hereby provoke. Or because Jehoahaz was the more stout and warlike prince; whence he is called a lion, Ezekiel 19:3.
 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
His fathers — His grand-parents, Manasseh, and Amon. He restored that idolatry which his father had destroyed. Jerusalem saw not a good day, after Josiah was laid in his grave; but one trouble came after another, 'till within two and twenty years it was destroyed.
 And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.
In bands — Either, because he presumed to take the kingdom without his consent: or because he renewed the war against Pharaoh.
 And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.
Jehoiakim — The giving of names was accounted an act of dominion; which therefore parents did to their children, and conquerors to their vassals or tributaries.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on 2 Kings》
ALLS OF SEPARATION.
We have the life of good king Josiah summed up under seven “ alls.”
Ⅰ. The “ all ” of separation. “ All the abominations……did Josiah put away” (2 Kings 23:24).
Ⅱ. The “ all ” of affection. “ Turned to the Lord with all his heart ” (2 Kings 23:25).
Ⅲ. The “ all ” of soul or life. “Turned to the Lord with all his soul” (2 Kings 23:25).
Ⅳ. The “ all ” of strength. “All his might ” ( 2 King 23:25).
Ⅴ. The “all” of fidelity. “ According to all the law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).
Ⅵ. The “all” of perseverance. “ All his days they departed not form following the Lord ” (2 Chronicles 34:33).
Ⅶ. The “all” of influence. “ The king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover unto the Lord” ( 2 Kings 23:21).
── F.E. Marsh《Five Hundred Bible Readings》
23 Chapter 23
And the King sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
Good aims and bad methods
The verses I have selected record and illustrate good alms and bad methods.
I. Good aims. Josiah’s aims, as here presented, Were confessedly high, noble, and good.
1. To reduce his people to a loyal obedience to heaven.
2. Generated within him by the discovery of the Divine will.
II. Bad methods. How did Josiah now seek to realise his purpose, to sweep idolatry from the face of his country? Not by argument, suasion, and moral influence, but by brute force and violence (2 Kings 23:4-28). I offer two remarks concerning his method.
1. It was unphilosophic. Morals evil cannot be put down by force; coercion cannot travel to a man’s soul.
2. It was mischievous. The evil was not extinguished; it burnt with fiercer flame. Persecution has always propagated the errors it has sought to crush. “He that taketh the Sword shall perish by the sword.” (David Thomas, D. D.)
A revival of religion
A young and active king now sits on Judah’s throne. Our text finds him at the age of six-and-twenty, in the midst of reforms which might have appalled many a man of twice his age. The earlier years of his reign he has occupied in many and various reforms, Now we find him in the midst of a revival of religion, the like of which the world has but seldom seen. The king, the court, the elders, the rulers, and the people all felt its power. Beginning at the house of God, it thrilled through all classes, and changed the whole religious life and thought of the land. And it is this revival of religion that I desire now to consider.
I. This revival began at the house of God. And surely that was the best place. In God’s house, in God’s presence, we are to assemble and look for Him. It is there we may expect the Shekinah fire, no longer visible over the ark between the cherubim, but felt in force and power in human hearts. It is there we must seek for renewed vigour and Divine influence. It is there we must look for the Lord Himself, and pray Him to strengthen and quicken us. It is there we must come for the deepening of our faith in the Eternal, enlarging of our courage and zeal, and the expansion of cur Christian hope. It is there all revival must begin. If, then, we are to have a revival, it must begin at God’s house. Votes of the House of Commons cannot do it, Acts of Parliament will never make men religious. Decrees of State will not fill empty churches with men and women full of the Holy Ghost and fire. All this has been tried. Some two or three hundred years ago soldiers were stationed at the doors of the parish churches, not so much to see who attended as to note who was absent. Fine, imprisonment, exile and worse, fell to the lot of those who did not fill their places. These things did not succeed. They never can. Fine, sword, fire, and persecution failed, and always will. They are the instruments of a past and barbarous age. But if we are to have a revival in which the people shall flock to God’s house, God’s house itself must be revived. There must be live men in the Church, if it is to save men alive. A cold Church but seldom warms cold hearts.
II. In this revival men came back to the word of God. The long-lost book was found. The Word of the Lord hid, slighted, neglected, lost, was discovered and brought to the young king. What a discovery Hilkiah made when he found the Bible! What a treasure he dug up! What a mine of precious ore! What a valuable find! The young king was quick to see its importance, value, and worth. It was read; its warnings heeded, its promises believed. And it was read to all the people. What an effect that book produced. Even so. I have no faith in any revival without the Word of God. Read the history of the great revivals in the Church, and you will find the Word of God in it all. Beginning with the Bereans right down to our day you will find it so. John Wycliffe was a great power in his day. He is rightly called the Morning Star of the Reformation. He Sent his Lollard preachers through the lend to tell the story of God’s love. As he translated the Bible into the language of the people, his preachers went and read it and preached it to common folk. Read the history of the Reformation, and what will you find there? Martin Luther is its hero. That marvellous man, like his Lord and Master, was a son of the people, and began life in a poor and comfortless home. Reared in the faith and practice of the Romish Church, he came to know it well, and early saw its weakness. What was it made him take his reforming action? Have we not read that he found a copy of the Scriptures--the neglected, deserted, forsaken Bible? He read it. It did its work. It was the Bible made him the great reformer. It was the Bible which the reformers accepted as a sufficient rule of faith and life. We, too, need to pay more attention to the living Word of God. We are apt to look for and depend upon the word of man. If that is not eloquent, if that is not such as to tickle our fancy, we often return from God’s house displeased, dissatisfied, and unblessed. What a mistake! Let us look for the God-sent message; let us hearken for the voice of the living God; let us hear what He has to say to us.
III. A revived Church will make itself felt in the world. This assembling at the house of God, and the solemn and reverent reading of the Bible, made a deep impression upon the people. The king dedicated himself to God. And surely that is the right thing for a king to do. The king should lead in all good things. All the people felt the influence, and there was a national movement. Public life was affected, the power of God was felt, men pat away their idols, and came back to the faith of their fathers. The Church, the Temple, religion became a greater force in the national life. (C. Leach, D. D.)
And the King went up into the house of the Lord.
Why should there be such a gathering as this? why should all the mighty, all the good, and all the wise, all the great with all the small, make such a point of going into the house of the Lord on this occasion? Why should they make such a public display about an ordinary duty, such as assembling in the house of the Lord? For two reasons.
1. Because that duty had become an extraordinary one, through the long neglect of it.
2. And the other reason was, because they were desirous to hear the Word of the Lord. These were indeed two good reasons for this solemn assembly of all the people in the Lord’s house. But what a terrible lesson does it read to us! We read of a wonderful deliverance of His people by Almighty God out of the hands of their enemies, when to the eye of man their situation was utterly hopeless. We should expect that this would have awakened them, especially as God had performed it on their turning back, under the pious Hezekiah, from their false gods to the true and living God; yet here, in the third generation from that time, we find the altars and temples of the false gods up again, and the Word of God lost, not only out of the hearts, but of the very sight and ears of the people. Once again, however, and, alas! for the last, time, both the temple and that Word were restored under the care of the pious Josiah; and the people of God once again, and for the last time, showed themselves as the people of God. Such is the example before us; the example of a people, too, in whose place we are standing, being grafted in as a wild olive, in place of the branches which had been broken off because of unbelief. And their example is our example, as we have been told by St. Paul. Let us review, then, some of the plainest applications of this example.
And Josiah took away the horses that the Kings of Judah had given to the sun.
The imagination in sin
Josiah sought to purify Israel from the idolatry that had been established by his predecessors, and in the course of this reformation occurs the incident recorded in the text. He “took away the horses that the Kings of Judah had given to the sun . . . and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.” You ask, What has this to do with the modern world and with modern men? This I wish to show. For it seems to me that there is in the text a twofold lesson which all generations ought to lay to heart. We are taught here--
I. The pretentiousness of sin. “The horses of the sun . . . the chariots of the sun.” Very large and magnificent indeed! There is wonderful exaggeration about all idolatry. The idol without eyes was known as the God of light; without breath, it was worshipped as the God of life; it could not stand unless it were nailed down or shored up, but it was proclaimed the Thunderer, or distinguished by some other august title. “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” but these nothings have received the highest names and titles, and through the superstition of their worshippers have been invested with the grandest attributes. And as it was with the gods of the Pantheon, so it is with the rabble of the vices; they are full of pretentiousness, they steal supreme names, they make impossible promises. The world of iniquity is a world of dazzling colours, false magnitudes, lurid lights.
1. How brilliant is the world of diseased imagination when compared with the world of sober reality in which God has placed us to work out our life! To-day we are all readers. What are we reading? History, science, philosophy, theology? Are we bent on finding out the great meanings of sober life and real life? You know better. The main part of our leisure hours is taken up with tales of mystery and imagination. It is not well to live long with unthinkable people and impossible situations in an ideal and fantastic universe; it puts our eye out for the actual world in which our serious business lies. Multitudes who would not for a moment in actual life touch the vices gilded by literary art will spend their leisure hours in contemplating these lawless things projected into visionary realms. And what is the secret of this ambiguous conduct? The fact is; actual life seems narrow and prosaic, dull and dreary, and so we steal away in me solar phaeton. How dim and insipid is the world of sober virtue off the side of lawlessness, excused by Sophistry and glorified by imagination! In fiction me grey world becomes kaleidoscopic, and the evil world is etherealised into coloured vapours whose fantastic movements stir our curiosity and wonder. So, despising the modest vehicles which God appoints for the pilgrimage of human life, we seat ourselves in the flaming car of imagination, and, drawn by fiery steeds of passion, with Zola for a charioteer, make the dizzy, intoxicating, yet terribly dangerous circuit of the sun.
2. Again, the same truth comes out as we compare the victories of war with the victories of peace. War is sometimes inevitable, things being as they are. The scientist holds that in nature a lesser evil is permitted to prevent a greater. Just war is a lesser evil to prevent a greater. There is something better than life, and that is right, equality, liberty; and war is the desperate resort of men crushed by tyranny. Still, war is an evil, a terrible evil. We must never fail to remember that; we must ever pray and work for the golden year when men shall learn war no more. And yet what a glamour there is about the red spectre! The poet may well write of “the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.” But no crowd turns out in the morning to greet the colliers going to their work, or in the evening to cheer the factory hands returning from the mill. There is no glittering romance about industry, no poetry about the toil which creates the wealth of nations. Industry is yoked to a coster’s barrow, whilst the powder-cart is the dazzling chariot of the sun.
3. We find another illustration of our point if we compare the career of unlawful speculation with the life of honest gain. How large, glowing, bewitching, is the former compared with the level course of the latter! Look at the titanic speculator. In a few years he emerges out of obscurity into national notoriety. It is all outside the legitimate, but it is dramatic, full of sensation and surprise. Squalid huckstering is transfigured into romance. How different the course of the little shopkeeper, with his “small profits and quick returns!” No song or story this time; no scent of poetry about the ledger, unless it sometimes reminds the shopkeeper of “Paradise Lost.” The daring adventurer shoots towards the golden goal in an electric car, whilst the humble trader is a wayfaring man.
4. And, finally, the same truth is evident when we compare the course of sensual pleasure with the simple pleasantness of a blameless life. How violent are the delights of sensualism! How tame the entertainments of the fireside! They are ridiculous compared with the fiery delights of the dram-shop. So it is throughout. The illegitimate and destructive, the things seriously wanting in reason and godliness, appeal most to the imagination; they have a glory and garishness which bewitch and lure into false ways.
II. The preposterousness of sin. “And Josiah burned the chariots of the sun with fire.” Throughout the whole of the reformation that he effected Josiah manifested his deep contempt of the idolatry that had wrought such mischief in Israel. With cutting irony he abolished first one evil thing and then another. “He burned the chariots of the sun with fire.” To cremate the chariots of the sun was the grimmest humour. The sun is said to be fifteen times hotter than the hottest thing upon the earth, so that if an incombustible car is wanted anywhere it is required for the insufferable solar majesty; and to cremate the car set apart for the fiery god was to convict it of fraud and to doom it to infinite contempt. To make a bonfire of the chariots of the sun was as ridiculous as if Noah’s ark had suffered shipwreck in a fish-pond. All Israel smiled scornfully as the pretentious things blazed in the flame and darkened into the ashes. Here is the truth that I wish to enforce--namely, that, despite all paint and spangles, all its exaggerations and splendours, sin is a miserable sham utterly unworthy of rational men. Wickedness is a screaming farce, as it is also the supreme tragedy. Notwithstanding its theatrical rhetoric, it is a hollow lie doomed to detection and contempt. Have nothing to do with things that cannot bear the test of thought. Thought strips away the cunning disguises of sin; it is the searchlight that makes clear the fact. In the hour of reflection our reason gives the lie to passion; our instincts rebuke our fancies; our conscience scorns the sophistries of imagination. Have nothing to do with that which will not bear the test of experience. Recall the principles and teachings which have been tried and attested by many generations. The devil has an arithmetic of his own which shows how large and splendid are the wages of unrighteousness; but in actual life his specious arithmetic works into bankruptcy and beggary of every kind. Fancy figures out the couriers and chariots of the sun as the dazzling and delightful equipages of the wicked, but a ray of daylight reduces them to the monstrous forms of the policeman’s stretcher, the workhouse omnibus, the prison van, the scaffold, the hearse that bears to the grave ere men have lived out half their days. Have nothing to do with that which will not bear the test of time. Things that are seductive in certain hours and moods of temptation look mean and deadly enough if you wait awhile. Time tries all things and detects the plausibleness which might deceive the elect. There is an illuminating power in time, and it shows up sin as vain, absurd, and contemptible. We wonder that we could ever thus have prayed the fool. Christ alone can strengthen us to live such a life. He knows what “the chariots of the sun” mean--He was tempted by the vision of the kingdoms and the glory of them. He saw and felt the power of the realm of illusion. The arch-sorcerer worked all his spells on the Son of Man--He refused “the chariot of the sun,” and followed the call of duty, the path of the Passion. In the strength of the Master take up your cross and follow Him, and you shall find the realities of power, greatness, and everlasting joy. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Surely there was not holden such a Passover.
Sincerity of repentance
There is something very striking and melancholy in these words. The children of Israel celebrated their last Passover, all being together, and in such a manner as had not been known since the earlier and better days of their possession of the promised land. It was, in fact, the last repentance of God’s people, and a lively repentance it seems to have been, to judge from outward tokens. But, alas! it did not continue. Three times already before this, God’s people had publicly repented, under the direction of pious princes, which were Jehoshaphat, Jehoash, Hezekiah. But now the appointed punisher of their sins was openly manifested to their sight in the terrible King of Babylon. And like the sick man with death before his eyes, they made earnest protestations of repentance and amendment if God would spare them, and sealed them with the celebration of the Sacrament of the Paschal Supper. Here, then, is before us the example of a fourth publicly professed repentance, and as ineffectual as the three that went before. Should it not lead us to take very close and scrutinising views of repentance, and to conclude that there must be something in it besides the present feeling of shame and sorrow, however sharp and lively that may be? There must be some abiding feeling in it, which shame and sorrow naturally are not. For the very sense of them drives us to rid ourselves of them by all means. What then can that be? What does God demand beyond the broken heart? Nothing, if it be indeed broken in His name. But here lies the question. Which does the man think most of, his own personal danger, or God’s damaged glory? Which does he lament most, his own loss, or God’s rejected love? Has he renounced the sinful selfishness of his nature? A man may keep this, and yet be overwhelmed with shame and sorrow; he may retain this, and yet manifest the most lively outward marks of repentance. So did Israel; and was led by it into his sins again, and they led him to the final judgment which came upon his head. Here is the cause of so many apparent repentances in the course of a man’s life. Selfish sorrow, selfish shame have wrung his heart, and terrified his conscience. But he has not gone beyond self. He has seen, indeed, the miserable disorder which his sins have wrought in himself in body and in mind. But has he looked out and up to see the miserable disorder which they have also wrought in God’s work of love; how they have obscured the brightness of His glory, how they have shaken the faith of His Church, as far as His sphere extends; and who shall tell how far it extends? Here is the principle that is so commonly wanting; here is that which Israel lacked, the heavenly spirit, and not the earthly dregs only. When the heart has thus been lifted out of itself, divested of its earthliness and carnality, and has risen into heaven to see the majesty which it has affronted, the love which it has rejected, the glory which it has blasphemed, and thence also looks down again upon the scenes of its sin and mischief amongst God’s works and people, and sees them with a clear and sharp eye, and lively and enlightened conscience, as becomes a look from above--then, and not until then, a real repentance has taken place. Such repentance will abide in its effects. In such the heart of the man is changed, so that he has foregone his old appetites, and, therefore, is out of the way of temptation from his old sins. Even though it should force itself upon his sight, he will not allow it to gain his attention, but turn away from it with a stern watchfulness against its ensnaring deceitfulness. He sees in it the art of the enemy of the God whom he serves, of the Redeemer whom he loves, of the Holy Spirit whose guidance he follows. And such repentance, therefore, is both the first and the last. But Israel, we see, made at least four several professions of repentance; and so have many done since. The more frequent they have been, of course the less sincere they have been. And such repentances are more a proof of the folly and selfishness of the man, than of any right and spiritual feeling. They are but the sorrow for having come in for the penalty of his sin at last. And, as soon as the infliction shall have been removed, he is ready to sin again. And, indeed, after each successive fit, he is but the more ready, because he wishes to drown the voice of conscience, which exclaims against his yielding again to the old temptation; and it is drowned amid his shouts of enjoyment, until the hour of penalty comes round again; then the note is that of lamentation again. Why, what affronting of the majesty of God Almighty is here! So little can the penitent himself depend upon a repentance which does not begin until God’s judgment is at hand. How can a heart which he has taught to cheat him continually, and which, at all events, has never been diligently schooled in spiritual discernment; how shall this, at a moment, too, of such confusion, at a time, too, when it is so deeply interested in coming to the more joyful conclusion; how can it, with any certainty, distinguish the sorrow and fear which arose from the love of self, now that he is in Such danger, from the love of God, now that He is resorted to after long forgetfulness? Wilt it not be too glad to mistake the fear for the love? Will not, indeed, the fear most certainly be there? All this tells us, what a broken reed men lean upon who trust in a last sickness to any feeling of repentance which they have not felt and cherished in the time of their health. Then judgment was far off, and God was sought therefore from love rather than from fear. Health is the time of strength, for the spirit no less than for the body. Let health, then, be the season of true repentance, and sickness will be the season of comfort, and the hour of death the season of well-founded hope. (R. W. Evans, B. D.)
And like unto him there was no king before him.
This and the previous chapter show us the influence of a godly sovereign. This prince at the age of twenty-six begins to repair the house of God. This leads to the discovery of the long-lost book of the law. At once Josiah obeys its teaching. He consults Huldah, and receives the Lord’s message. Finding himself exempted from vengeance on account of his repentance, he endeavours to lead his people to obtain the same exemption, and for this purpose institutes a thorough national reformation. This, we read, consisted of
I. That personal reformation springs from a knowledge of God’s word applied to the heart by faith. It was this that influenced Josiah (Psalms 119:130). “The entrance of Thy word giveth light” (Acts 17:11-12). “Therefore many believed.”
II. That true personal reformation consists of doing and undoing.
1. Undoing old associations, by--
2. Doing, by--
III. That personal reformation has results:
1. Comfort and peace to those who carry it out. For thirty years Josiah’s reign was a peaceful and happy one to himself. So soul-reformation brings peace to the believer.
2. A blessing, though it may be only a temporary one, to those who, even outwardly, take part in it. The punishment pronounced upon the land was deferred (2 Kings 22:20) till after Josiah’s death, and a believer brings blessings on those around him.
2. Personal piety cannot stop national punishment (of. Zechariah 3:2). Josiah has a grand epitaph written over him (verse 25) by the finger of God. May much be ours! (J. W. Mills, M. A.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》